8 things that could LOWER your IELTS writing score

Words and phrases to avoid in IELTS essays.

The essay writing section of IELTS is mainly formal. Unless of course it is General Training Task 1, and they want an informal letter written to a friend. This is the same for the Academic Writing Task 1 reports. You could lose marks in vocabulary or grammar if you are writing in an informal way, using idioms, or using memorised stock phrases etc.

You may not lose a band score if you do just one of these things below but if you are making a combination of errors then it could be the cause of being stuck at band 6 or 6.5.

  1. Memorised sentences and ‘show off’ phrases

We see these a lot in essays of our students. Many IELTS students think they have to show off to the examiner with set  phrases. In fact, examiners are trained to spot these and they will lower your score.

These are easy to spot because the rest of the essay may  have issues with faulty wording and grammar and suddenly there is a ‘native speaker’ academic type phrase that just  seems out of place.

  1. Using idioms or slang

Idioms are set phrases that native speakers often use in conversation. Do not use any  idioms in the writing section, as they are far too  informal and are often used in the wrong way by English learners. Alternatively, idioms can be used in your speaking, where the speech is more informal, but they must be used accurately. Make sure that you know how to use idioms or they could lower your score in speaking.

If you are memorising them in the speaking part then the examiner will notice it and that too will lower your score.

  1. Using pronouns such as  ‘you, we, us’ too  much

You can use personal pronouns in your writing but be very careful. If you are using the word ‘you‘ too much in your writing it comes across as informal as you are personally addressing the reader. 

Use pronouns for referencing;

You can, however, use ‘they‘, ‘it’ and ‘their’ to reference people or things in your essay as the marking criteria mentions ‘referencing’.

  1. Shortened words and short forms

Shortened words are words such as ‘info’ for information, ‘uni’ for university or ‘asap‘ for as soon as possible. Other shortened words which are informal in writing are ‘till’ for until,  ‘gonna’ for going  to, ‘thru’ for through, ‘coz’ for because etc.

Do not use these as they are seen as sloppy in writing and are mainly used in speaking.

  1. Outline sentences in the introduction

It is easy for a lower Band score candidate to just memorise these phrases and plug them into the essay. We have seen so many variations of these.

  1. Cliches in a conclusion

We have seen this quite a lot in the conclusion. The student usually thinks they have to impress the examiner with ‘high level’ phrases

  1. Using informal phrases to state your opinion

All IELTS essays are asking for a position, check the instruction words as some ask for your direct opinion.

If the question asks you or your then it is asking clearly for your opinion such as:

‘To what extent  do you agree or disagree?’ / What is your view’ / Do you agree or disagree? / What is your opinion?

  1. Using  ‘and so on, etc, like, eg, i.e.’  when giving examples.

For formal writing, words such as ‘and so on’ are not acceptable. This is seen as lazy writing, so you will need to explain what you mean. It’s the same with ‘etc’ or ‘eg’ .. avoid  these and give a clear explanation of your  points.

It’s ok if you are writing an email or a memo to someone in your office but not in IELTS writing. In IELTS speaking you can use ‘and so on‘ or ‘like‘ to give an example as the speaking test is informal.

By the way, you should give examples in your  main body paragraphs for a higher score in task response as you need to support and extend your  ideas.

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